"You are a liar and a hypocrite, Arthur Pendragon, and for that, you shall pay a penance." The sorceress raised her hand, and Merlin lunged forward, aware that all the knights were surging forward as one, but they would be too late. "Gwir," she hissed, and a flood of magic poured forth from her toward Arthur, passing through Merlin and knocking him to the ground even as he flung himself bodily into Arthur.
A shrill shriek split the air, and the sorceress vanished, nothing but a gentle breeze in her wake.
"Sire," Leon gasped, running up to Arthur's side. Merlin rolled to his back, sure that Arthur was safe for the moment, and blinked at the ceiling lurching unsteadily above him.
Tell him, said the voice in his mind. Tell him of your magic. Unburden yourself. You must set the truth free, Emrys.
"Merlin!" Gwaine dropped to one knee beside him, but Merlin shook his head; he was unharmed, except for the extremely irritating voice that kept pestering him to -- to --
"Arthur," Merlin gasped, accepting Gwaine's hand up. Arthur had already risen to his feet and he turned to Merlin with a familiar look of concern on his face, the one he always had when he was about to begin lecturing Merlin about staying out of the way. But there was something different this time, and as Merlin swayed toward Arthur, struggling to contain this odd compulsion to spill forth every secret he'd ever possessed, he saw Arthur's eyes widen, and then --
-- then Arthur bit down on his own lip viciously, and squeezed his eyes shut tightly for a moment. Merlin stared, fascinated; he could barely breathe for wanting to reach out and heal the bite immediately. He swayed forward, lifting a finger to trace the wound. But at that moment, Arthur's eyes opened, and he gripped Merlin's wrist like an iron band.
"But I only wanted...I wanted...please, let me, Arthur, I have--"
Arthur's hand clamped over Merlin's mouth, so tightly Merlin's head snapped back.
"Sire, should I fetch Gaius?" Leon said, staring at the trickle of blood on Arthur's chin.
"Yes," Arthur said, "and send him to my chambers. No one else, Leon." Arthur slid around behind Merlin, his hand moving to accommodate his new position, and then he was propelling Merlin through the corridors, all Merlin's secrets trapped behind his hand. Arthur was breathing as though he'd run a mile in chain mail; for his part, it was all Merlin could do to keep up with the pace Arthur was setting, walking ahead of him like some sort of puppet.
Arthur stopped in front of the door to his chambers and rested his head against the back of Merlin's, his breath hot on Merlin's neck as he said, "Open the doors, Merlin, hurry," and Merlin shivered at the feel of it, at Arthur's lips brushing his skin. He lifted the latch and then they were inside, and Arthur released him with a shove, closing the door with a rattling bang, then barring it.
The moment he turned around, Merlin gave in to the voice in the back of his mind --
tell him tell him tell him tell him TELL HIM
-- and it burst from him like a spring kept wound too tight for far too long.
"Arthur, I have magic--"
"--I know about your magic."
For a moment, Merlin blinked at the strange echo, until the fog lifted from his mind and he realized with horror that he'd -- and Arthur had --
"Wait, you knew?" Merlin said slowly, as he began to understand that they were both bespelled. "Arthur, when--"
"Later," Arthur said desperately. He drew the back of his hand across his mouth, smearing blood across his face. "That witch -- did she hurt you?"
"No, but I think it's -- a truth spell, Arthur, we were both caught by it."
"You more than me," Arthur said, squeezing his eyes shut again.
"What is it?" Merlin said, and this time he did step forward, cupping Arthur's cheek with a gentle hand while he touched his thumb to Arthur's lip. The cut disappeared beneath a tiny, invisible tendril of magic. Beneath his fingers, Arthur trembled.
"I've wanted you, " Arthur said, his voice heavy and low. "Wanted -- I -- your mouth, your hands," he said, as if the words were wrenched from him. And then he took Merlin's face between his hands and crushed his mouth to Merlin's, stealing all the fear from Merlin's heart and spinning it into adoration. Arthur kissed him as if he had been starving for the taste of Merlin's mouth, and Merlin kissed back just as fiercely, for it was not as if he had not felt the same desire. It was such a small secret, in comparison to the truth about his magic, that it made him dizzy to think what a large secret it had been for Arthur, to have been forced from him first above all other things.
A sharp knock on Arthur's door should have separated them like guilty children caught stealing sweets in the kitchens, and yet Arthur did not withdraw in haste. He gave Merlin two hard, lingering kisses, and then pulled back, leaving Merlin to stand there swaying as he opened the door and admitted Gaius.
"Sire, are you all right?" Gaius looked first at the blood on Arthur's face, and then gave a penetrating look to Merlin as he sank down in a chair, taking the weight off his wobbly legs.
"It appears to be a truth spell," Arthur said, glancing at Merlin. "Merlin took the brunt of it, but I've been caught as well."
Merlin sighed and straightened in the chair. "He knows, Gaius," Merlin said quietly. "About my magic."
The expression on Gaius' face transformed rapidly from concern to fear, and Arthur said softly, "Gaius. If I had wanted to act on this information, I could have done so long before now. Be at ease."
"Apparently, he's known...how long have you known?" Merlin asked.
"Since the day you used magic to open the doors during my fight with Elyan," Arthur said, and Merlin was instantly back in the corridor, with the heavy doors between himself and Arthur as the clash of steel rang out again and again. "I suspected before that, of course -- you are not the most subtle sorcerer, Merlin, and really, you must be more careful -- but that was the first time I was certain." A look of veiled horror crossed his face then, as if he had not meant to say any of it, and Merlin realized that it was unfair, that he'd asked a question and compelled Arthur to speak truth.
"Merlin!" Gaius said, recovering his usual practical manner. "No more questions! Or for you, either, sire. These things generally wear off within one turn of night to day; by sunrise, you should find your discretion restored. Until then, perhaps it would be best if you were both isolated -- even from each other."
"No," they said in unison. Arthur pressed his hand into Merlin's shoulder and added, "The damage has been done, Gaius. I doubt either of us has any greater secret than those already confessed."
Merlin felt a hot blush rising over his neck and face, and avoided Gaius' searching gaze.
"Sire, it would be very easy for me to give both of you a sleeping draught to help pass the hours. In silence."
Arthur turned to Merlin, and waited for his opinion; this fact alone gave Merlin the strength to shake his head. "No thank you," Arthur said. "We will let the night...bring what it will."
"As you wish. I will of course be available, should you change your mind," Gaius said, giving Merlin one last searching look.
When he was gone, Arthur barred the door again, and a moment later, Merlin was in his arms, and then he was tumbling down toward the floor. Arthur caught him in time to prevent his head from striking the ground, and then he was feverishly ripping open the ties to Merlin's breeches. Before Merlin could say more than, "Arthur, what--" his mouth was on Merlin's hard, aching cock.
Merlin took a stunned look at that beloved blond head bobbing up and down, at Arthur's mouth on his cock, and gasped with surprise. A moment later, as Arthur's hand joined his mouth in its motion, Merlin came with a startled cry. Head flung back, he looked up at the stone ceiling and tried to gather some air into his lungs.
"Well, it's a relief to have that out in the open, then," Arthur said. He dropped a kiss to Merlin's belly, and rested his chin on Merlin's hipbone, looking up at him with a lazy smile.
"What?" Merlin said, raising his head to stare. "You know I have magic, and this is what's a relief for you?"
"Well, to be fair, I've been keeping this secret longer." Arthur nuzzled Merlin's belly, which was distinctly unfair because it kept Merlin from concentrating on anything Arthur was saying. "I only realized you had magic when you started doing it practically in front of my face." He frowned. "Your sense of self-preservation is remarkably stunted."
"Stunted," Merlin murmured, certain he was having some sort of curse-induced hallucination. "Um. Now that the king of Camelot knows, what other reason would there be for caution?"
"Oh, I don't know." Arthur got to his feet, reaching out a hand for Merlin, who swallowed hard and took it. Arthur pulled him up, then walked him back toward the bed. "You might accidentally set my hair on fire, or turn me into a goose, or something."
"If I haven't yet, despite severe provocation, there's little chance of it now. I am fairly competent at this, you know." Merlin glowered even as Arthur was shoving him up onto the bed and vaulting over him to snuggle down beneath the blankets with him.
They spent the rest of the night in Arthur's soft, warm bed, talking quietly, secret after secret spilling out at the merest hint of a question.
"What was the first time you wanted to tell me of your magic?" Arthur said, his chin resting atop Merlin's head.
"The very moment I met you," Merlin said immediately, thinking back to the insufferable prince of their younger days. "Someone needed to take you down a peg."
"And you have made that your mission in this world ever since," Arthur murmured. Merlin could hear the smile in his voice, and turned in his arms to kiss the ridiculously smug expression off his face. "But that's not what I meant." Arthur pulled back. "Did you ever want to tell me, for the sake of friendship?"
"Every day," Merlin said. "More and more, through the years, until I felt I might burst with it."
Then they traded slow kisses for a while as they snuggled deep beneath the blankets, and the questions were put aside.
"What was the first time you wanted me?" Merlin asked, as Arthur was laying a precise row of soft kisses down the length of his arched spine.
"I knocked you down on the practice field, and you stood back up, defiant, ready to knock my head off. Of course, you hadn't the skill to do so -- really, Merlin, and it's truly sad how little you've improved since then -- but if I were the type of prince to have tumbled servants, I would have had you then."
"You were the type," Merlin said, breaking off into a moan as Arthur licked his shoulder blade.
"Not servants I cared for," Arthur said, and then his forehead hit Merlin's back, even as he groaned. "When is this spell going to end?"
"Soon," Merlin said, with a tinge of regret in his heart. It was not quite dawn, but the gray of approaching sunrise was creeping up at the windows.
"Tell me your fondest wish," Arthur said, grazing his teeth across Merlin's neck.
"To see you become the greatest king Albion has ever known," Merlin said, rolling to his side. The look on Arthur's face was priceless; Merlin couldn't help but smile. "As if there is any other reason I'd have put up with you these many long years. Many, many long years."
"Well," Arthur said, a pleased flush darkening his ears, which Merlin leaned over to press his lips against.
"And yours?" Merlin said.
"For you to be safe." Arthur squeezed his eyes shut on a hard wince, as if that particular secret had been painful, but Merlin couldn't see why; it had always been obvious to him from the first time his king had tried to die to save him.
The cock crowed somewhere in the distance, and an immense sadness settled over Merlin. "The spell will lift any moment now," Merlin said, tracing the lines of Arthur's cheekbones with gentle fingertips.
"It doesn't matter," Arthur said, pulling him close. "I want to tell you everything, Merlin -- anything you want to know, anything -- whatever you might wish to ask of me."
"Arthur," Merlin breathed, as Arthur's mouth settled over his in a slow, tender kiss. "Tell me when you knew you loved me."